Joseph Schillinger papers
- Schillinger, Joseph, 1895-1943 (Person)
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
13.91 Cubic Feet (5 large flat boxes, 2 medium flat boxes, 1 small flat box, 8 full-size letter boxes, 1 half-size letter box, 10 full-size legal boxes, 3 full-size legal boxes, 1 half-size legal box)
Biographical / Historical
During the 1920s and 1930s Schillinger developed a system of musical composition that reduced melody, harmony, and especially rhythm to geometric phase relationships. Every conceivable permutation of these relationships was "scientifically" catalogued in his theoretical writings. He extended his ideas to include issues of orchestration and the emotional and semantic aspects of music, as well as applying them to dramatic theatre, graphic design, motion pictures, and other kinetic art forms. His experiments with complex rhythms were realized on the "rhythmicon," an electronic device constructed by Lev Termen (Leon Theremin) to specifications of Henry Cowell. The Schillinger System became the basis of the course of study used for Schillinger’s private pupils, many of whom were composers and arrangers of commercial and film music. Students of the Schillinger System include Tommy Dorsey, Vernon Duke, George Gershwin, Benny Goodman, Oscar Levant, John Lewis, Gerry Mulligan, Carmine Coppola, and Glenn Miller. Schillinger's music, apart from some classroom exercises and examples in his theoretical writings, shows no clear connections to his pedagogical system. His style is generally conservative and reflects an eclectic Russian influence. A number of songs are written under the pseudonym Frank Lynn. (Edited from "Schillinger, Joseph" in Oxford Music Online.)
Following Joseph's death in 1943, Frances Schillinger devoted herself to promoting both his legacy and his methods through publishing his work, running the Schillinger Society (in cooperation with her third husband, Arnold Shaw), and granting licenses to individuals and institutions to teach the Schillinger Method. Among those licensed was Lawrence Berk, whose institution would later become the Berklee School of Music. Frances had a diverse range of correspondents (including the photographer Richard Avedon, the musicologist Charles Seeger, and the composer Henry Cowell) and her letters reflect her untiring belief in the value of Joseph Schillinger’s work.
In the later years of her life, Frances Schillinger Shaw donated materials documenting Joseph Schillinger’s life and work to a number of cultural institutions. In addition to the Peabody Institute, Schillinger materials can be found at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, the New York Public Library, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress and others.
See also: Quist, Ned. "Toward a Reconstruction of the Legacy of Joseph Schillinger." Notes 58, no. 4 (June 2002): 765-786.
Scope and Contents
The collection consists primarily of materials created by Joseph Schillinger but also includes documents about Schillinger and his influence assembled by his widow, Frances Schillinger Shaw, and by the former librarian of the Arthur Friedheim Library, Ned Quist, whose research notes and exhibit materials are included in series 6.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Some materials that were removed for an exhibit in approximately 2000 have not been reprocessed according to their most logical series. There are, for example, recordings and concert programs included in the collection outside of their respective series. Some oversize items are physically separated from related material.
- More than 100 items from the Schillinger papers, including drawings by Schillinger and correspondence from composer Henry Cowell, are available online through the Friedheim Library's Digital Collections.
- Some additional digitized items from the Schillinger papers, including a letter from Leon Theremin, can be accessed by searching the university repository, JScholarship.